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Your Yearly Reminder: It’s Just Practice

| July 30th, 2018

It happens every year.

Fans obsessively follow every training camp practice and get overly excited when they hear that guys from their team look really good. Or conversely get worried upon hearing somebody is struggling.

This is your friendly, annual reminder to calm down. The first few days of training camp ultimately don’t mean a ton, especially when it comes to rumors about how particular players are performing. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why hearing about a single practice, taking place over a month before the season starts, is not really going to tell you much about the season.


Single Examples

How often do you hear somebody say “This player looked great today,” using one big play he made as proof? Unfortunately, this blatantly ignores the consistency required from players to truly perform at a high level.

To go along with this is the problem of contrasting reports. One person will say a player looks great based on one or two flashy plays, while another person claims that same player is doing terrible because he had one bad miscue. Fans will naturally want to gravitate towards the positive reports, but balance is key.

Recent example: New kicker Cody Parkey made some long field goals, but also had a few misses. One reporter explained that all the misses came with the 2nd team holder, while another decided Parkey had a “shaky day.”


Looking Good or Looking Bad?

Another thing to keep in mind is that players are going up against their teammates in training camp, so somebody “looking good” could mean more that their teammate is bad. For example, hearing that the offensive line is consistently dominating their defensive counterparts in practice can be viewed two ways.  On the one hand, the offensive line is looking really good.  On the other hand, the defensive line is being outclassed. Does that say more good things about the offensive line or bad things about the defensive line?

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Data Entry: Building a WR Profile for Chicago’s New Offense

| February 20th, 2018

The Combine approaches in a few weeks in Indianapolis, and with it an obsession over everything that can be measured. Height. Weight. Hand size. Three-cone. Jumping ability. Speed. Everybody will soon be discussing 40 times like they make the difference between a good and bad football player.

Before we get a bunch of data from the Combine, let’s take a look at which measurables might matter, specifically at wide receiver.

New head coach Matt Nagy comes from the Andy Reid offense in Kansas City, so I took a look at the Combine stats of WRs the Chiefs invested in  -either in the draft or free agency  -since Reid came to Kansas City in 2012. Basically, I wanted to find a physical profile for well-performing wide receivers in that offense that the Bears might look to follow this year. This can help us identify what wide receivers at the Combine might make sense as targets for the Bears in the draft.


Building the Profile

There were 8 Chiefs WRs identified that were drafted by them, signed to a substantial deal in free agency or earned a meaningful role with the team as an undrafted free agent since Reid took over in 2012. These players were Tyreek Hill, Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson, Da’Ron Brown, and De’Anthony Thomas. I used Mock Draftable to look up their Combine data (or found data from their pro day when the Combine was not available) in every category I could find, and compared it to the average WR mark in each of these categories that Mock Draftable has compiled. Full data can be seen here.

Many of the measurables didn’t show any clear pattern, but I identified three where players consistently scored well: 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. Packers

| November 12th, 2017

Chicago came out of the bye flat, acting like nobody actually wanted to play a football game against their biggest rival. Their terrible kicker was good, but nobody else really was. The only thing that kept this game somewhat close was the fact that Green Bay is terrible, but they still won fairly comfortably on the road.

Let’s break down this embarrassing effort.

Offense

  • The first drive was simply awful. After two weeks to prepare, they ran into a loaded box on 1st down and lost a yard. After a nice pass picked up a first down, they again ran into a stacked box and lost a yard. The next play was both an illegal formation and a hold, setting Chicago up in 2nd and 21. At that point, the drive was over thanks to a combination of poor play calling and dumb penalties.
  • Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky actually had a pretty good start to the game. He made good throws and got the ball to players in space. That changed as the game wore on and Green Bay dialed up the pressure. Trubisky got happy feet and starting pulling his eyes down from scanning the field too quickly. He also refused to throw the ball away, making him completely inept under any sort of pressure.
  • Green Bay’s five sacks weren’t all on the offensive line, but they were bad today too. Hroniss Grasu, making a start at center and shifting Cody Whitehair to right guard with Kyle Long out, was routinely pushed back into the backfield. The unit also picked up way too many penalties, with a nice mixture of pre-snap, during the play, and after the play mixed in.

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Data Responds: Bears at Saints

| October 29th, 2017

The Bears played pretty evenly with the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints on the road, but a series of missed opportunities (helped by one atrocious call by the officials) cost them the chance to enter the bye at 4-4.

Perhaps most important to Chicago going forward, the loss was a costly one for the Bears. Four starters left the game with injuries and did not return, including guard Kyle Long (hand), center Cody Whitehair (arm), cornerback Bryce Callahan (knee), and tight end Zach Miller (leg). We’ll wait to see how serious the injuries are, though I can say fairly confidently that Miller’s gruesome leg injury means his season (and likely his career) is finished.

Still, the best news to me from the game was that they kept fighting. When they went down 17-6 early in the 4th quarter, I expected them to roll over and quit, but from that point on the defense forced two turnovers, the offense scored a touchdown, and the special teams picked up a big return to keep Chicago in the game. The attitude on the team is changing, and the importance of that can’t be overstated.

Offense

  • The Bears were forced to ask for a bit more from rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky this week, and we saw some of both good and bad, as should be expected from a young quarterback. We saw the talent leading to some big plays, and we saw the rookie mistakes leading to missed opportunities and/or negative plays. The overall stat line (14/32, 164 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 46.9 rating) looks ugly, but his performance was not that bad. Notably, Trubisky threw 2 touchdowns, but one of them was taken away by a terrible officiating call and one of them was inexplicably dropped by a wide open Jordan Howard.

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DaBearsPod Week 6: Adam Jahns of Sun-Times & Tom Petty! [AUDIO]

| October 13th, 2017

On this week’s pod:

  • Jeff launches a profanity-laced tirade on the United States men’s national soccer disgrace. They are not a team. They are a disgrace.
  • Adam Jahns of Chicago Sun-Times discusses changes in the locker with Trubisky under center, John Fox’s buffoonery, Tanner Gentry’s real debut this coming Sunday, Cody Whitehair’s snap struggles, Adam Shaheen’s whereabouts, Nick Kwiatkoski’s health…and more!
  • Reverend Dave attempts to watch Monday Night Football in East Africa…
  • Once more unto the Tom Petty breach with You Got Lucky (possibly my favorite Petty song).

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Data Responds: Bears vs. Vikings

| October 10th, 2017

In rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s debut, the Bears got the ball to start, and marched right down the field. Trubisky looked sharp on several impressive throws, including one huge third down completion to Tre McBride that set Chicago up on Minnesota’s 9 yard line.

Except a holding penalty by center Cody Whitehair brought the Bears back to 3rd and 20 out of field goal range. One screen pass later, they punted, costing themselves at least three points.

That would lay the foundation for a frustrating first half of missed opportunities, when a long list of penalties (some more dubious than others) led to Chicago getting no offensive points despite passing midfield on four drives.

Unsurprisingly, those missed opportunities came back to haunt them in the second half, as a late Minnesota field goal led to a 20-17 win.

Coaching

  • They get their own section again, which usually means bad things. And we’re starting here, because it was terrible.
  • John Fox took too long to decide whether to go for it on 4th and 2 in the first quarter, which forced the Bears to call a time out. Out of the time out, they took too long to get the play in, resulting in a delay of game and punt. That was an ugly sequence that was 100% the fault of the coaches. Then in the 2nd half, they had to burn a time out when the Vikings had 1st and 19 due to confusion with defensive play calls.
  • The Bears were also incredibly sloppy early on, with several early penalties negating big plays and/or putting them behind the chains. Some of the calls didn’t seem particularly great by the officials, but overall they need to get out of their own way and stop beating themselves. That’s the mark of a poorly coached team.
  • Dowell Loggains also had a terrible game. He fell into predictable patterns we’ve seen through four games, with obvious runs on 1st down and too many horizontal passes. They ran out of heavy sets and threw out of shotgun, with not enough variability mixed into those sets. This routinely set the Bears up in 3rd and long situations, which is not where you want a rookie quarterback (or any offense, really) to be. To his credit, Loggains did have a beautiful play call on a game-tying 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter, but overall he had a rough night.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Camp Thoughts, Telander/CTE & More!

| July 31st, 2017

Five Camp Thoughts Through A Few Days

  • Tanner Gentry may be benefiting more than any other player on this roster by being low on the pecking order. While he’s situated with the 3s, he’s developing a relationship with the soon-to-be starting quarterback and face of the franchise. This isn’t Joe Anderson Boner or Daniel Braverman. This is a talented kid who may leave Bourbonnais with the faith of the most important player on the roster.
  • Bears won’t wait long to elevate Trubisky from that position, however. Right now he’s in “earn it, rook” mode. Give it a week.
  • Yes, the leap in competition level will be extraordinary. But I’m told by people on the ground that Adam Shaheen looks like he’s going to be something special. And for a team that struggled mightily in the red zone to get touchdowns a year ago, Shaheen’s productivity may begin on day one because it’ll be hard for any defense to match-up with his size and speed.
  • I’m a Kyle Fuller skeptic. I don’t doubt his ability. I don’t doubt that he’s having a good early camp. But the organization believed, less than a year ago, that Fuller lacked the heart and desire to be a professional football player. If that’s changed, wonderful. But I need to see it in September.
  •  Another summer, another weird injury as Markus Wheaton had an appendectomy that will greatly stunt his assimilation into this offense. Bears have big plans for Wheaton so the appendix not bursting should mean he’s back into the fray in 3-4 weeks.

Telander Donates His Brain

Other than my friend Rick Pearson, the best political journalist in Chicago, I rarely look inside the Chicago Tribune (physically or digitally). Rick Telander is one of the reasons why the Sun-Times has gathered almost all of my attention and why I was so thrilled to hear their new ownership pledge allegiance to good, local writing. Here’s an excerpt from his wonderful piece on his brain, and CTE:

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